As television personality and Twitter enthusiast Stephen Fry prepares to take his portrayal of Malvolio from the Globe to the Apollo, Tim Crouch’s bizarre and hilarious representation of Twelfth Night’s fun-despising steward has already set up camp at the Unicorn theatre.
Here, Malvolio is a dishevelled and sorry sight; his distinctive yellow stockings sagging around his ankles, his underclothes tattered and stained with urine, a turkey’s wattle dangling from his chin and flies circling his grubby face.
From his confined cell in Illyria, this unsightly figure conveys Shakespeare’s well-known tale of Olivia, Viola and Orsino’s love triangle, the cruel trick played by Sir Toby Belch and Maria, and his own pitiable humiliation. Aimed at children of secondary school age, Malvolio’s educational rant helps simplify the Bard’s complex prose, shedding light on Twelfth Night’s far-fetched plot whilst comparing some of the play’s themes with aspects of modern day youth culture.
Part accusatory head teacher, part bullied school boy, Crouch alternates between low, stern tones and high-pitched shrieks as he touches on a variety of topics from littering to happy slapping, making members of the audience his unknowing victims at the same time as branding them perpetrators of physical and verbal abuse.
Despite its educational worth, there’s something slightly unsettling about a man in questionable underwear parading on stage in front of children, even more so when those children are asked to assist in his suicide. But it’s as hilarious as it is disturbing; no matter how guilty we are made to feel, Crouch has us sniggering at every seething word.
By the end, you may well feel agitated, insulted and a little mentally scarred, but it is surely worth it for the hour of laugh-inducing edutainment that Crouch provides. Although beware; he will be revenged on the whole pack of you.